This time last year I found out I work in kindergarten. This was particularly surprising since there aren’t actually any children in my office building.
Let me explain. It was Back to School night at my children’s school and we were in my 5 year old’s classroom. There was a nervous and excited buzz in the room, as my husband and I, along with the other parents, sat down on the little blue chairs and waited anxiously to hear about the expectations for the school year…and of course, whether or not the teacher would announce that our child had already clearly established herself as the genius of the class.
After welcoming everyone, the teacher began explaining the life of a kindergartner. As her presentation progressed, it began to sound strangely familiar. Yet, try as I may, I could not put my finger on the connection. I knew it wasn’t because I was relating her words to detailed memories of my own year in kindergarten. I can barely remember last week, let alone events from the 1970’s. Instead, a much more disturbing truth slowly dawned on me. My daughter’s days in kindergarten were not much different than my days at work in corporate America.
The first topic covered was behavior management in kindergarten. The concept centers around a large color chart. Each child has a clothespin with his or her name on it. The clothespin is clipped on Green at the start of the day. Green designates a neutral color. During the day, if the child is paying attention and working diligently, that child is complimented and his or her clothespin is moved up the chart to a “better” color like yellow, orange or red, which is the best of all colors.
At work, if I do a good job, my boss compliments me…and silently moves my clothespin up the career chart.
In kindergarten, if a child is not focusing on his or her work, the child is reprimanded and must move the clothespin down to blue or purple. If he or she hits another child, the clothespin goes straight to the dreaded color pink, and the kid’s parents are called.
At work, if I spend the day surfing YouTube and don’t turn in my PowerPoint draft, my clothespin moves down the career chart. If I slap someone in IT for not providing me the right data for my PowerPoint draft, then the Human Resources Department is called.
The teacher then went on to discuss her motivation techniques. When a child does a really good job on a project or exemplifies good listening skills, he or she gets a “super worker treat”, which is a piece of candy. When the class as a whole does well, the teacher puts little toy bears in a jar. Once the jar is filled, everyone gets to choose a prize from the classroom Treasure Chest.
Hmm…if I do well, I get a bonus at the end of the year. If my company does well, I get an even bigger bonus from the Company Treasure Chest.
She next went on to talk about class activities. They make colorful art projects using different shapes like triangles, circles and rectangles. I, on the other hand, create colorful PowerPoint slides that have arrows, boxes and bullet points.
The class participates in regular story time. All the children gather around in a circle on the floor while the teacher reads aloud. When she has finished telling the story, she asks the children a series of comprehension questions.
In my world, we refer to this as a meeting or “conference call”. I often lead such meetings. For example, I might explain during such a call that my team has suddenly been tasked with performing a time-sensitive review of ABC product. To do so, I need XYZ data. I will then follow up with questions to assess comprehension. For example, how quickly can you get me that data…i.e. did you understand the meaning of time-sensitive?
There are even parallels to the playground. In kindergarten, children ride around on tricycles and climb up and down the ladders on the play equipment. Similarly, I drive my car through miles of traffic across the county, jostle for a spot in the parking garage and have to walk down 4 flights of stairs.
So, as you see, my daughter and I actually have very similar days. We are rewarded for good work, do colorful projects with shapes, have story time and run up and down stairs. For those who worry about the quality of our public school system, you can rest assured. It is indeed preparing our children for the real world.